Adopting a child in Pakistan is a long, difficult, and legally complex process. Pakistani law does not allow adoptions. A Pakistani court, however, may grant guardianship to U.S. citizen parents seeking to adopt Pakistani orphans—and only orphans—for adoption in the United States.
At the same time, parents who wish to adopt a child must begin the immigrant visa process by filing a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Based on the guardianship and the approved petition, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad can then issue the orphan an immigrant visa to travel to the United States in most cases. The parents can then complete the adoption application for the orphan back in the United States.
Roadmap for Adoptions
In order to adopt a child, you must:
(1) be legally able to adopt the child in your home state in the United States,
(2) prove that the child meets the legal definition of an orphan,
(3) prove that you have legal guardianship of the child, and
(4) prove that a court has allowed the child to emigrate to the United States for the purpose of adoption.
Meeting Home State Requirements
Requirements vary from state to state. Please contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) at http://www.uscis.gov/adoption for more information.
What an Orphan Is
Children are orphans if they meet all three of the following criteria:
(1) Age of Child: The child is under the age of 16 when you file the petition or the child is under the age of 18 together with a natural sibling under the age of 16. In either case, the child must also be unmarried and under the age of 21 when we issue the visa.
(2) Conditions for Parents: The child will be adopted by a married U.S. citizen and spouse, or by an unmarried U.S. citizen at least 25 years of age.
(3) Conditions of Orphanhood:
- The child has no parents because of the death or disappearance, abandonment or desertion by, or separation from, or loss of both parents, or
- The child’s sole or surviving parent is incapable of providing proper case and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
Proving that a Child is an Orphan
Primary evidence that a child is an orphan consists of a decree from a court or other competent authority that:
(1) makes the child a ward of the state (due to a circumstance, such as a disappearance, death, and so forth). This can be met via a court decree or by turning a child over to a licensed orphanage.
(2) unconditionally divests the parent(s) of all parental rights over the child. One way to meet this requirement is for the court to turn the child over to a licensed orphanage.
Please note that if a child has not been a ward of the state or is not in the care of a licensed orphanage, the child cannot be considered an orphan under U.S. law.
Once you have identified a child through a licensed orphanage, the orphanage will provide you with a letter describing the identity of the child. With this letter, you or your attorney in Pakistan will file an application for guardianship with a family law court. If the court grants you guardianship, they will issue you a record of the proceedings, a guardianship order, and a guardianship certificate. The certificate must state that guardianship is being granted for purposes of immigration to and adoption in the United States.
You will then take the certificate to NADRA and have their office update the child's Form B, listing you as parents. With that form and the guardianship certificate, you may then apply for a passport for the child.
When you apply for your child's visa, please bring:
- your application for guardianship
- record of the proceedings
- the guardianship order
- the guardianship certificate
- the new Form B
- the child's new passport.
Please Contact Us
The narrow definition of orphans in Pakistan makes the adoption process very difficult. We strongly suggest that you e-mail us at AdoptionsPakistan@state.gov before you begin your search for a child to adopt. This e-mail could save you much heartbreak down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I start the process?
Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact:
- the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at www.uscis.gov/adoptions and
- the Consular Section in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad
before applying for guardianship of a child to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed. Obtaining legal guardianship under Pakistan law does not guarantee that the child will qualify for a U.S. immigrant visa.
U.S. immigrant visas can be issued when a Family Law Court grants guardianship of an orphan and the court understands--and specifically states--that the child is permitted to leave the jurisdiction of Pakistan and emigrate to the United States for adoption.
Is Pakistan a Hague country?
No. Pakistan is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for Pakistan did not change.
Does Pakistani law allow adoption?
Pakistani law does not allow for adoptions of Pakistani children in Pakistan, and Islamic Shari'a law does not allow for adoptions as generally understood in the United States. Instead, U.S. citizens interested in adopting a child in Pakistan must obtain a guardianship order and a guardianship certificate. The certificate must state that the child can immigrate to the United States.
What is guardianship?
Guardianship is a limited proceeding and does not terminate or grant full parental rights. In limited cases, guardians can apply for U.S. immigrant visas for their adoptive children.
Can any child be adopted?
No, only orphans can be adopted in Pakistan.
Death, disappearance, abandonment, desertion, separation, and loss are legal terms when they refer to orphans. What do these terms mean?
The narrow definitions of these legal terms complicate many cases. We strongly suggest that you e-mail us at AdoptionsPakistan@state.gov so that we can give you individual clarification on your set of circumstances. This e-mail will help you determine if you can adopt a particular child or not.
Are all children in orphanages in Pakistan orphans?
In Pakistan it can be very difficult to determine whether children who appear to be orphans are in fact eligible for an immigrant visa for adoption purposes. Due to a number of factors, children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members, or criminal actors may separate children from their families. As there is no central governmental adoption authority in Pakistan which can certify that specific children are indeed abandoned or orphaned, it can be extremely difficult to fulfill the legal requirements of United States immigration law. Please note that if a child has not been a ward of the state or is not in the care of a licensed orphanage, the child cannot be considered an orphan under U.S. law.
Are inter-faith adoptions allowed?
No. According to Pakistan's laws, prospective parents who are non-Muslims may not adopt or be appointed guardians of Muslim children. Non-Christians may not adopt or be appointed guardians of Christian children. Children abandoned at an Islamic orphanage are deemed Muslim unless there is any evidence to prove otherwise.
How do I start the process?
Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) www.uscis.gov/adoptions and the Consular Section in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad before applying for guardianship of a child to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed. Obtaining legal guardianship under Pakistan law does not guarantee that the child will qualify for a U.S. immigrant visa.
U.S. immigrant visas can be issued in cases where the Family Law Court grants guardianship of an orphan and it is clear that the court understands and specifically rules that the child is permitted to leave the jurisdiction of Pakistan and emigrate to the United States for the purpose of being adopted in the courts of the United States by the prospective parents.